8 questions with Holman’s Table’s Tina McElveen: She predicted her career in kindergarten

Ever since she was young, Tina McElveen knew she wanted to become a chef.

We chatted with McElveen, who was recently named the new head chef at Holman’s Table (Nick O’Leary maintains his role as executive chef) at St. Paul Downtown Airport (aka Holman Field) in St. Paul, about her journey into the kitchen and beyond.

What’s your first food memory? Probably manicotti. My mom used to make it all the time.

What did you want to be when you grew up? I wanted to be a chef or be in computer sciences. I wrote a letter to myself in kindergarten for an assignment when you write to yourself about what you want to do in the future. I actually wrote that I wanted to be a chef or in IT.

What was your first job in food? Technically McDonald’s. My first job in dining was the Aster Cafe in Minneapolis. I was sous chef.

How did you wind up in the restaurant business for good? At Aster, I was bar backing. Then Heidi Marsh, the executive chef at the time, brought me into expo, where I was in the front of the line directing the flow of food to get it out to customers because she saw that I was good at it. It just sort of spiraled into the kitchen after that. I’ve been at quite a few restaurants in between, including Barbette, Cafe Maude and Book Club.

What’s your favorite dish on the Holman’s Table menu?  My favorite dish to make so far is the short rib. It has mashed potatoes on the bottom, then carrots and short ribs and then the sauce on top. It’s just a really cool construction that executive chef Nick O’Leary came up with.

What’s the last thing you cooked at home? I cooked a chicken dinner for my wife. We had pan-seared chicken with an Italian vinaigrette and vegetables stir-fried style. We had a nice salad with it.

If you had to eat or drink only five things for the rest of your life, what would they be? Rum and coke. I really like orange juice. I like green machine smoothies. For food, it would be pork loin or chicken. And any kind of pizza.

What’s next? I just started, and we’re still executing the menu as is. Nick is executive chef; I’m the head chef. I’m his chef, and I kind of bounce ideas off him and he tells me to run with them or how to fix something. A few items are going to change for the summer. But none of them are my ideas. I came as the switch was starting to happen.

Holman’s Table

  • Where: St. Paul Downtown Airport/Holman Field, 644 Bayfield St., St. Paul
  • For more information: 612-800-5298, holmanstable.com

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